Motherhood is meant to be coffee catch-ups, play dates, and morning walks with friends, right? If you’re a mom already, you’ll know that’s not generally how it rolls. And if your baby hasn’t arrived yet, consider this your heads up.
Why does being a mom feel lonely?
When we’re pregnant, we see moms and babies everywhere.
We are like moths to the flame, sneakily studying their prams and wraps and carriers, trying to gain clues on how this baby-rearing thing is done. What we don’t see is that at any given time, the majority of mothers and their babies are actually at home.
Those moms doing their thing out of view are likely to be alone through the day. Because of the hidden-away nature of mothering, we don’t see what the day-to-day reality is reality like.
For many mothers, we don’t know what’s coming, so we can’t plan to mitigate the onslaught that is to come.Anna Cusack
The reality of motherhood is not talked about in detail because mothers either don’t want to scare us off having kids or seem like they’re “failing” at living up to the ideal “good mother” social standard. We don’t know what’s coming, so we can’t plan to mitigate the onslaught that is to come.
An unnatural pressure on mothers
Surely, mothering should have just come “naturally,” shouldn’t it? If not, there must be something wrong with us.
Although this is wildly untrue, we have been trained through the education and workplace systems to work hard and be strong independent women who don’t rely on others to “make it happen.”
It’s hard to suddenly flip the script on our entire subconscious programming and invite others in our time of need.
Plus, because mothers are typically at home more, more domestic tasks and family admin fall to us. Combine this with the ongoing cycles of feeds, naps, and stimulating but not overstimulating our delicate babies, and the time we have available to socialize narrows.
Loneliness caused by a lack of support
Well-wishers may abound in the early days, then quickly withdraw into a haze of “not wanting to intrude” or being too busy with their own lives to lend a hand.
Partner leave is woefully insufficient across most parts of the western world, and the vast majority of partners (if they are on the scene at all) are back on the job within 1-2 weeks post-birth.
First-timers often try moms’ groups, but they are hit and miss – some get on like a house on fire while others will see some moms feeling lonely in a crowded room (yep, that was me!).
We turn to those who “should” be there and hope for the best.
Unfortunately, the people we expect to be most involved in our baby’s lives – grandparents are a prime example – are often less interested, less helpful, or less available than we expected them to be.
On the flip side, people may be present to help, but emotionally draining, undercutting or judging your choices to the point you’d rather they buzzed off.
The people you saw every day can drop like flies from your friendship sphere. Your previously close-knit work team continues their work (and workplace social schedule) without you. Your favorite spot at gym class gets taken by a new member. The silence is deafening – capitalism is king, and you are, indeed, replaceable.
Read next: How to Support a New Mom in Five Easy Steps
The modern mother’s loneliness dilemma
We are unsupported, under-resourced, and exhausted.
Who feels like putting themselves out there to make new friends running on four hours of broken sleep for weeks, a baby that takes hours to get out the door, and an apprehension for breast or bottle-feeding in public because both are open to public judgment? I sure didn’t.
That was until I realized purposefully expanding my village was the only solution to combatting my motherhood loneliness (and the socially constructed problem) I found myself in. Here’s how I did it.
Six steps to overcome the loneliness of motherhood
1. Find a mentor
I identified two ‘mama-mentors’ and let them know I would ask them ridiculous questions at any time. These were women whose approach to child-raising felt right to me.
I didn’t know them super well, but I asked them for resources and advice, and general reassurance that I wasn’t failing.
2. Reach out to friends
I got in touch with a mama I knew in another city with the same sense of humor and a baby the same age as mine.
This was the person I could share midnight memes and “what?! Teeth again?!” messages with. It felt like solidarity from afar, and there was never an expectation of “catching up.”
3. Remember your interests
I joined a group that aligned with my values, not my baby’s age. I love learning stuff. I love massage. We went to baby massage – and loved it – and it was only the teacher and another family in our class. Winning all around!
I also joined some online study courses with women’s circle components and have been lucky enough to find some soul sisters through shared interests and values that way.
4. Put yourself out there
I followed up on obscure but promising leads. A mum came by to collect some pre-loved stuff I’d listed online. “How do you possibly do it with two kids?” I asked. “I wear the little one a lot. And coffee. And all the biscuits”.
Two years later, we’ve had joint kid birthdays, babysat so the other could work, and she even helped edit my book.
5. Seek professional help
I embraced professional help. I consider the guy that brings my weekly grocery order is part of my village. Paid child-care counts as a modern village. So does the (future) cleaner I endeavor to have, and the breastfeeding helpline, and the counselor I had when I was really anxious in that first year postpartum.
6. Lean on childless friends
I called on my childless friends. My older neighbors are probably lonely and are happy to play with my kid while I take a phone call.
I’m also passionate about showing potential mothers what they’re in for and letting them see what kind of support they’ll need to plan for ahead of time. One of my girlfriends loves playing with my kid for an hour a fortnight in return for a cuppa or meal. It’s a gift to all of us to share in the joy (and slog) of raising children.
Final thoughts on motherhood loneliness
You’re not alone in feeling lonely, Mama, and it’s totally okay to grieve the vision for the organic village you held of motherhood. Let the tears come whenever they need to.
When they have run their course, and the time is right, start to reach out, and keep reaching out until you find a hand that sticks. Bit by bit, this is how we rebuild the lost village of mothers.